These commonly used preservatives can harm your skin.
6 Preservatives to Avoid Putting on Your Skin
Parabens. It is a preservative that prevents the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast in cosmetic products. Sounds good, right? BUT Parabens possess estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors. You can find parabens in facial cleansers, makeup, body washes, shampoos and deodorants.
Propylene glycol. It is a small organic alcohol commonly used as a skin-conditioning agent. It’s classified as a skin irritant. It has been associated with causing dermatitis and hives in humans with concentrations as low as 2 percent. You can find it in moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup products, conditioners and shampoos.
Fragrance is a term that was created to protect companies from having to disclose their ‘secret formula.’ It’s difficult to know exactly what this ‘secret formula’ contains and you could be putting on chemicals that are toxic or hazardous to your health. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system. You can find it in moisturisers, body washes, shampoos, perfumes, conditioners and shampoos.
Phenoxyethanol is a widely used preservative to prevent bacteria, mold and fungi in skincare products. However, the European Commission (EU) listed it as toxic when applied to the lips and around the mouth. FDA has issued warning to nursing mothers to be careful of using nipple cream containing phenoxyethanol as it could cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and central nervous system problems in infants. Also in the bestselling book, The Chemical Maze, it listed phenoxyethanol as, “Suspected reproductive and developmental toxicity; effects from exposure may include headache, eye irritation, tremors and CNS depression; mild irritation on sensitive skin; absorbed via the skin; toxic to the kidneys, the nervous system and the liver…”. You can find it in moisturisers, cleansers, serums, body lotions.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). This surfactant can be found in more than 90 percent of personal care and cleaning products (think foaming products). SLS’s are known to be skin, lung, and eye irritants. A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen. These combinations can lead to a host of other issues like kidney and respiratory damage. You can find it in cleansers, shampoos, body washes, mascaras and acne treatment.
Triclosan. It is a widely used antimicrobial chemical. It’s known as an endocrine disruptor especially thyroid and reproductive hormones and is a skin irritant. There are concerns that triclosan contributes to making bacteria antibiotic-resistant. It can be found in antibacterial soaps, toothpastes and deodorants.
According to Ecocert, the inspection and certification body for sustainable development for their guidelines on natural and organic cosmetic standards. They approved the following synthetic preservatives:
Benzoic acid and its salts
Dehydroacetic acid and its salts
Salicylic acid and its salts
Sorbic acid/potassium sorbate
Important note: You will come across ingredients such as Grapefruit Seed Extract, Rosemary Oleoresin Extract, and Vitamin E in natural skincare products. These are not preservatives. They are known as antioxidants. There is a difference between preservatives and antioxidants. Preservatives are used to kill or inhibit bacteria, yeast and moulds. Antioxidants are used to prevent the oxidisation of oils and fats. So if you have a water based product, you’re going to need preservatives, not antioxidants.
Is Preservative-free Skincare Safe for You?
Products that do not contain any water don’t need a preservative. Plant-based emollients like butters (shea butter, mango butter), carrier oils (jojoba oil, safflower oil), waxes (beeswax, myrica fruit wax), and essential oils cannot breed bacteria, mold, or yeast on their own, and therefore don’t need a preservative. With proper formulating practices, packaging storage and handling, a preservative is not necessary. However, air and waterborne microbes can contaminate preservative free products if you:
Store products in a humid bathroom.
Leave the jars and bottles opened after each use.
Use fingers to remove product from jars.
Allow water to enter the products.
We hope that clarifies why Fresk does not add preservatives to our skincare, and why we use only gentle and genuinely natural ingredients that are healthy for your skin. For example, look at the ingredients we use in our Moisturiser (eg organic shea butter which provides deep hydration to skin and protects from moisture loss; is high in vitamin A and E; and is good for very dry, mature, cracked or damaged skin).